Types of Avatars in Playable Reality

When creating a playable reality, the overarching goals of the game must be considered before implementing any sort of avatar. Some games let players create their own avatar to increase emersion, while other, more story driven games often give the player a predetermined avatar for reasons tightly wound to the narrative.

In a spatial reality, where the player’s goal is to explore a specific location of a historical event, the avatar does not truly matter, because the reason for playing the game is to gain a deeper understanding of the environment one is in. In an operational reality, where specific events in history are depicted in games, the avatar is incredibly important because most often the player will be assuming the role of a real person who existed in the past. The closer the avatar resembles that person, the more the player can feel immersed in that specific event.

In a procedural reality, where the player plays through an underlying situation and not a specific story, the avatar has more flexibility. Aa specific person’s story can be hindered by an avatar not closely aligned with the person’s true appearance. However, if a player is playing through a broader situation, avatar creation can draw players in and make them more immersed in the game. Therefore, they can understand the behaviors that arise in a situation in a deeper context. Trepte and Reinecke discuss the “ideal self” and the “actual self” in their essay, “Avatar Creation and Video Game Enjoyment,” discussing how players will generally create avatars with characteristics the players strive for or already have. Creating avatars that are similar to the player in this way links the player to their avatar in a way that a game where they are assuming the role of someone else cannot.

 

Trepte, Sabine, and Leonard Reinecke. “Avatar Creation and Video Game Enjoyment.”Journal of Media Psychology (2010), 21 Dec. 2010.

The Experience of Walden: A Game

In Walden: A Game, developer Tracy Fullerton expertly relays the experience Henry Thoreau describes in his book, Walden. Thoreau’s original book was recounting his social experiment in which he built a cabin in the woods near Walden Pond and lived there for two years. In Fullerton’s eyes, Thoreau was trying to convey that the true goal in life is to find a balance between nature and civilization while also balancing work with play (Toppo).

The game is a first-person exploration game, with elements of survival emphasized. The survival mechanics seem to be more in the background in the game while exploring nature and becoming inspired by one’s surroundings is in the foreground. Players have numerous possible actions they can accomplish at any time, such as fish at one of many fishing locations, build and maintain Thoreau’s cabin, and even read novels such as Homer’s Illiad. The game rewards balance, for example, a reasonable amount of reading may be good for inspiration, but too much may cause the player to feel too far removed from the surrounding nature. If the player’s relationship with nature is compromised, the screen will dull and the character will eventually faint.

This masterfully crafted game serves to give the player an expedited experience of what Henry Thoreau went through during his experiment. Giving the player agency and free roam in a beautiful and realistic landscape successfully allows players to have a dose of the connection that Thoreau originally wanted to describe in his book. The game is not about having fun or learning about someone else’s experience; it is about the player having their own enlightening journey.

 

Toppo, Greg. “Learn to ‘Live Deliberately’ with ‘Walden’ Game on Thoreau’s Birthday.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 12 July 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/07/11/henry-david-thoreau-walden-pond-game-dives-into-deliberate-living/468756001/.

Museum Context of the Mousetrap

In the 1789 edition of the inventory, there appears to be a single mousetrap located in one of the Butteries of the workhouse. A mousetrap in a location of food or drink preparation calls into question the sanitation, cleanliness, and even safety of workhouses.

In a museum, an eighteenth-century mousetrap could evoke numerous responses from visitors. In a recreation of a location of food preparation such as a kitchen, pantry, or buttery, a mousetrap set up as if it were trying to catch a live rodent would instantly put people at unease. In today’s day and age, vermin near food is disgusting and extraordinarily unsanitary so this would make today’s public think about the questionable cleanliness of workhouses in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

On a different note, mousetraps today are very recognizable objects, but as I discussed in my object biography, the mousetraps used back then may have looked extremely different; there were many possible designs, most of which not very similar to modern traps. The comparison of current mousetraps and a mousetrap of the 1800s would almost certainly lead to thoughts about technological development in mundane objects, which is often not thought about.

The Black Act (1723)

Between 1721 and 1723, a series of riots and poaching occurred in and around the Windsor Forest, dubbed the Waltham affair. The first of these affairs occurred in October of 1721 when sixteen poachers raided the park of the Bishop of Winchester out of supposed “private spite” (Rogers, 468). After subsequent raids of the Bishop’s property and similar elite properties such as the Farnham deer-park, where the Waltham Blacks stole eleven deer and killed many more, the Parliament of Great Britain passed legislation which was essentially a collection of punishments for these poaching raids. The Waltham Black Act ended up being an extremely severe legislative decree laying out more than fifty new offenses that would be punishable by death (Cruickshanks and Erskine-Hill, 358). The “ferocious legislation” included laws prohibiting going into any woods using any sort of disguise or blackened face. People charged with this crime could be prosecuted without any connection to a specific act of destruction or larceny (Rogers, 465). The severity of the Act was designed to “ensure the wholesale suppression” of the gangs of poachers, who were known as “Blacks” because of their practice of blackening their faces in order to conceal their identities (Rogers, 478). Some historians have argued that the Waltham Blacks were lined to the Jacobite movement, supporters of the Stuart monarchy who sought to overthrow the Hanoverian king of England, which is perhaps why the English Parliament was very adamant in creating such intense laws. Other reform laws were proposed by John Locke, who thought the poor were to blame for their own situations. For more information on John Locke’s Poor Laws, check out this link.

Sources:

Rogers, Pat. “The Waltham Blacks and the Black Act.” The Historical Journal 17, no. 03 (1974).

Cruickshanks, Eveline, and Howard Erskine-Hill. “The Waltham Black Act and Jacobitism.” Journal of British Studies 24, no. 3 (1985): 358-65. http://www.jstor.org/stable/175524.

Response to McCall and Chapman: Importance of the Environment in Historical Video Games

I agree with the article’s point that historical video games, by definition, diverge from true, completely accurate history. In order for the people who are playing the video games to feel immersed, there must be some cause and effect element of the player’s choices. These choices, when implemented in narrations or simulations of actual historical events, cannot be 100% accurate because the choices often take the history off the factual path.

However, I think that historical video games present a massive advantage in terms of teaching people how to understand the mood and tone of an age in history. After playing games like “Assassin’s Creed,” my biggest take away was not any of the historical events that may or may not have been perfectly accurate, but it was the tone of the age. The weapons, enemies, town’s, and even the common folk walking around all helped immerse me into the game and taught me a little bit about how life was vastly different in the past than it is now. In the article, Adam talks about the environment of the game having a lot of information in them, and I completely agree. I think that is one part of historical video games that may be overlooked.

Sure, precise facts about historical events are important, but perhaps they are better suited for a different media outlet where player choice is not as integral, and we can still learn a lot from historical games.